I’m sure you’ve heard it: fear of public speaking is a fear worse than death for some people.
Why is that? Well, nobody’s born a good public speaker. As with all fears, fear of public speaking is something that is learned, and what is learned can be unlearned. When someone says, “I have a fear of public speaking because I’m not a good speaker” what they really mean is “I haven’t learned to be an effective speaker, I haven’t developed the skills.” I think we can agree that speaking comfortably in front of a group is a skill you can learn if you want to.
However, when you make a statement such as “I’m not a good speaker” that comes from what I call your inner critic. You know what I’m talking about. That always, everywhere voice that is constantly haranguing you and telling you what you can’t do, what you are not good at and why you shouldn’t even try. Now it’s important to understand that of all the people that we have a tendency to believe, or be suggestible to, the one we believe the most is us, our own voice. We tend to believe our inner critic even though not everything it says is necessarily true.
Let’s acknowledge that the inner critic is there to protect you. Nobody wants to be embarrassed, or be seen as incompetent, or be ridiculed. But to move forward in any endeavor, such as being comfortable or even excellent as a speaker, we need to manage and subdue the inner critic or it’s going to make trouble for us and try to stop us and sometimes succeed.
In today’s business environment, most people will be required to give reports or presentations to colleagues or clients. Or, you might be interested in teaching courses or seminars. So, for many professional people, learning to speak in public is a necessary part of your personal and professional development. Getting that inner critic out of the way is really important for putting yourself out there, not only as a speaker but in other areas where being seen will be beneficial and lucrative to you.
If you’re inner critic is really bossy and noisy and you’ve been giving it a lot of energy and attention, then the idea of speaking in front of people might trigger that fight or flight response (sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, inability to think clearly) The good news is that you can learn to overcome the fear response and speak comfortably
Here’s the first thing you need to know: You don’t have to be a master orator in order to be effective. You just need to be yourself. Don’t try to be or think of
yourself as a “public speaker”. Don’t compare yourself to other people that have spent years learning public speaking and that have a lot of experience doing so. Compare and despair!
Here’s the second thing: have the intention that you are going to learn or get better or get more comfortable. Make this a goal. Write it down.
Then, you want to examine what that inner critic is saying to you so you can refute it with logic and common sense. This can be a really valuable writing exercise.
For instance, your inner critic might be saying that the audience is going to judge you harshly and pick you apart and laugh at you. Counteract that by repeating: The audience is on my side, and wants me to succeed.”
Think about when you were sitting in the audience watching someone speak or perform or present. You wanted to enjoy the experience. You wanted them to do good. That’s really the attitude most audiences have.
Next, stay out of the What If Pit. That’s where your inner critic start going on about what if this happens, what if that happens? Counteract that with “What if I do great and people congratulate me on a job well done? Then, imagine that, see it and feel the good feelings that would come from that happening. That inner critic voice might be saying “How am I going to remember all that information, what if I forget?” You don’t need to memorize a lot of information. That’s what notes and handouts are for.
That voice might be saying “They are going to see that you are nervous!” It’s ok to be nervous, for a lot of people that goes away when you start speaking or presenting. And the truth is, most people don’t notice your nervousness.
Here’s the last thing you want to think about: for many people, fear of public speaking comes from childhood experiences that were scary, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. If you messed up a book report presentation in 6th grade and the other kids laughed at you, that one experience could’ve sent a powerful message to your brain that speaking in front of people is dangerous. Take some time to examine the origin of your fear and see when that inner critic decided that it needed to protect you. Then you can begin to counteract that inner critic with positive affirmations and self-talk to create confidence, comfort and acknowledging that fact that you are not a kid anymore and that you can release those negative memories.
Here are a few pointers that can help you silence that inner critic, let go of the fear of speaking in public, and really allow yourself to shine!
· Preparation is always the key. Have an outline for what you are going to say. Put your notes on 3×5 index cards that are numbered in order. Practice saying the words out loud. Practice in front of someone you trust that can give you some positive feedback is one of the best ways to deal with that inner critic. Practice in front of a mirror.
· Smile and have fun. Bring energy and enthusiasm to your presentation. The worst sin you can commit as a speaker is making people wish they were somewhere else. Don’t be boring.
· Humor is good. People want to laugh, and when they do, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable. Just use common sense to avoid offending your audience.
· Make sure you eat something before you speak. Your diet and your level of anxiety are intimately related. Don’t go in front of a group on an empty stomach or over-caffeinated.
· Lastly, remember that your inner critic is simply self-talk that no longer serves you. Actively practice supportive and positive self-talk that supports you. It takes practice but you will get better at it. Do a little mental preparation before you speak. Psyche yourself up, see yourself doing great, give yourself some positive suggestions. · Use EFT to release anxiety about public speaking as well as to release memories of negative experiences. EFT is also known as tapping. I did a YouTube search on tapping for fear of public speaking and there were at least 10 videos about that subject so check it out.
· Explore joining Toastmasters. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that builds confidence and teaches public speaking skills through a worldwide network of clubs that meet online and in person. Go to http://Toastmasters.org to learn more.
Look, not everyone is cut out to be a great public speaker. And not everyone needs to be a good speaker. However, if you are required to speak, or you are looking for the opportunity to communicate your message, then public speaking allows you the opportunity to be seen and shine. You have a unique contribution to make. Your experiences and the lessons that you’ve learned can benefit others. If you can silence that inner critic and overcome your fear, then you can share your experiences and what you’ve learned, you can share your expertise and knowledge, and you can share the best parts of you with others for their benefit and yours.
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Jordan Peterson said “If you can think and speak and write, then you are deadly.
Brian Tracy said: “Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life.” Brian Tracy
Jim Rohn said “Words do two major things: they provide food for the mind and create light for understanding and awareness.”
If any of what I said resonates with you, you should know that I help people quiet the inner critic and turn up the volume on their inner cheerleader so you can present the best version of yourself and shine. I encourage you to book a complimentary consultation to see if working together can be your best path forward. To do that go to http://TedMoreno.com/contact